Garda stations being closed quickly 'to fight off any threat of opposition'
THE closure of 95 garda stations in 10 days' time has been described as a "guillotine action" designed to thwart opposition in rural communities around the country.
The president of the Garda Representative Organisation, John Parker, has said that the 95 stations – out of a planned 100 closures – are being shut down at the end of the month so that communities don't have time to mobilise to oppose the plans.
He told the Irish Independent that garda authorities announced the closures would take place on a phased basis, but said: "Yet they hit the sledgehammer with 95. It's a guillotine action, basically. The communities can't mobilise."
He said the closures scheduled for January 31 "pre-empt that", adding: "It takes the heat off local politicians."
Just five of the 100 stations announced for closure by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan last December will remain open beyond Thursday next week.
Mr Parker said: "Obviously there's probably some difficulty with regards the other five, that they're putting them in a second phase of closures."
Dublin stations Stepaside and Kill O the Grange are schedule to close this year, as are border station Redhills in Co Cavan, Barrack St in Cork and Mary St in Limerick, but they will remain open for some time to come.
The four urban stations were among the busier of the stations listed for closure with more than 3,500 crimes reported to officers in those stations in 2011.
A garda spokesman last night said that the remaining five stations would be "closed in the coming weeks", but did not give a precise date.
The spokesman said the reasons they would remain open beyond January 31 were "logistical".
He said "we won't be adding anything further" when asked about Mr Parker's claim that the stations are closing at the end of the month in order to offset the possibility of organised opposition.
One campaign that has already swung into action is the effort by the community in Stepaside to save their station.
Up to 1,000 people are to form a human chain around the building next month to show their opposition to its closure.
Local Labour councillor Lettie McCarthy said that she still hoped the decision to close Stepaside would be overturned.
She said that the community had been told by the local Garda Chief Superintendent, Diarmuid O'Sullivan, that the delay in closure was due to Dundrum garda station being made ready to accept more than 30 officers being relocated from Stepaside.
Garda authorities officially released the names of the 95 stations closing at the end of the month on Saturday. They said: "A total of 100 garda stations will close in 2013. The closure of these garda stations will be on a phased basis."
Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins reiterated his party's opposition to the closures, saying they were "a retrograde step", adding it was "removing the deterrent factor to criminal activity".